Pentagon orders 15 more KC-46A tankers

by Gareth Jennings

Boeing has been awarded USD2.6 billion to build a further 15 KC-46A Pegasus tanker-transport aircraft for the US Air Force (USAF).

Boeing is under contract to deliver 67 of the USAF’s intended 179 KC-X tanker-transport aircraft. (Boeing)

Boeing is under contract to deliver 67 of the USAF’s intended 179 KC-X tanker-transport aircraft. (Boeing)

The contract, announced by the Department of Defense (DoD) on 27 September, brings the number of aircraft that are under contract to 67. As noted by the DoD, the Lot 5 production award includes spares and support and will be complete by March 2023.

With a programme of record of 179 aircraft for the USAF’s KC-X requirement, Boeing is contracted to have delivered 36 aircraft to the service by the end of this year, while the first of up to four aircraft for Japan will be delivered in 2021.

The KC-46A is a 767-2C provisioned freighter with a 767-400 flight deck (this flight deck features the Rockwell Collins large format displays of the 787 airliner). The KC-46A has a minimum crew of three comprising pilot, co-pilot, and mission system operator/officer. It can carry 96 tonnes of fuel, although it should be noted that the KC-46A loses much of its underfloor cargo space with auxiliary tanks in doing so.

In terms of its USAF mission, the KC-46A will be deployed ‘closer to the fight’ to better support the service’s expeditionary operations. With this in mind, the KC-46A has been fitted with ballistic armour in the cockpit and passenger cabin, as well as for the fuel tanks; electro-magnetic pulse hardening; and nuclear, biological, and chemical protection. In addition, by being closer in stature to the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker it will replace, the KC-46A will be able to use much of the USAF’s existing infrastructure, such as hangars and maintenance facilities.

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Boeing has been awarded USD2.6 billion to build a further 15 KC-46A Pegasus tanker-transport aircraf...

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